The Dallas Cowboys hosted the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon, and took a beating in the process. A close game early, the Patriots were finally able to get traction against a Cowboys defense that was showing pressure early. Eventually, the Patriots took control on both sides of the ball and won 30 -6.
Dallas started the game rough, with a three and out drive featuring a couple of misses by Brandon Weeden. But the Dallas defense buckled down after a rough first play with a nice break up by Sean Lee and a sack by Rolando McClain to give Dallas the ball back with a slight loss in field position at their own 13 yard line. On the second drive Dallas started better with a couple of good runs, but Darren McFadden missed a key block and Brandon Weeden took a sack on 3rd and short. The Patriots again started with a good gain, but Greg Hardy followed it with a sack to move the Patriots to long field goal range and good coverage by Sean Lee kept them there. Stephen Gostkowski put the first points on the board with a 49-yard field goal. The early idea that the Dallas defense would be good, but not good enough, seemed to be holding form.
Dallas got the ball back again and, again, after getting to a 3rd and short, McFadden missed a block and caused a sack, but this time Dallas was spared by an unwise holding penalty on the defense. After drawing the Patriots offside to shorten the distance, Weeden hit Cole Beasley to get Dallas their first legitimate first down of the game. Joseph Randle hit a big run to cross midfield. The drive stalled there, leaving Dallas to try a long field goal. Bailey answered the call with a 51-yarder and tied the game for Dallas.
New England took the ball back and began moving with a series of tough runs and the first quarter ended with New England moving. On the first play of the 2nd quarter the Dallas defense answered the charge and threw LeGarrette Blount for a loss on 3rd and 1. Brady continued to take hits and an offensive pass interference on a pick play backed the Patriots into a 3rd and 11. Dallas threatened blitz but confused the Patriots by only rushing 3. Jack Crawford got to Brady and the Patriots were forced to punt again. The Cowboys defense continued to answer the call.
Dallas got the ball and went backwards, with a bubble screen thrown for a loss and a holding penalty on Ron Leary. Danny Amendola brought the punt back to the 45 and the Patriots were in good position to add to their lead. The Patriots used a quick passing game now to move the ball down the field with a penalty on Morris Claiborne followed by him tripping himself up on back to back plays. New England ran a hurry up and almost got bitten by it as Jack Crawford had a hand on Dion Lewis in the backfield, but he was unable to make the play and J J Wilcox had to make a TD saving tackle at the 1 yard line. Tom Brady kept the ball and drove through the middle on the next play for the game's first TD.
Dallas's field position woes continued as the next drive started at the Dallas 14. Chandler Jones dropped a chance to break the game open, dropping a 3rd down pass from Weeden from a robber position in the center of the field. The next punt was rushed, but a holding penalty on the return kept the ball on New England's side of the field. At this point in the game, Dallas' average starting position was their own 16, New England's their own 34. Good pressure and nice coverage on Rob Gronkowski by Byron Jones got a big three and out to keep Dallas in the game. A dropped pass and a sack given up by Ron Leary, however, made it look like New England would get one more chance to score before halftime. They received the punt at their own 45 yard line with 53 seconds left. Tyrone Crawford responded with a sack on the first play, and Dallas converged on Brady again, but he got the ball off to Julian Edelman who got away from Morris Claiborne to get the ball to the Dallas 40 with 13 seconds left. Tom Brady let one fly to the end zone and Corey White had great coverage, but Stephen Gostkowski made 57 yards look easy to take a 10 point lead into the locker room.
The Patriots opened the second half with a big completion to Rob Gronkowski on 1st and 20 after a holding penalty. Barry Church, Jack Crawford, and Corey White all missed Dion Lewis in the backfield on a swing pass that was well defended except for the "get the man on the ground" part and J J Wilcox's hit at the goal line was not enough to prevent the Patriots from scoring and going up 20-3. Dallas got the ball back and a very questionable contact call gave them a first down. Completions to Witten and Randle added a pair of first downs. The drive was ready to stall but Devin Street came up with a key 3rd and long conversion to keep it alive. The movement ended in the red zone and Dan Bailey kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it a two score game, while the defense got some much needed rest. As the 4th quarter started, Brady hit Keyshawn Martin for a big 3rd down conversion, but a first down offensive pass interference call put the Patriots in a hole. Julian Edelman got open with a successful pick play and took it 59 yards for a score to pretty much ice the game at 27-6. Greg Hardy hit Brady on the play, but the damage was done and once Edelman was free in the open field, no one could get a hand on him.
That essentially ended the game, although it could have been called much earlier. The Cowboys running game was once again a hit and miss affair, and Brandon Weeden found little success downfield. The Cowboys offense was stymied the entire game, and a Dallas defense that showed some life early in the game by hitting Brady began to wilt.
The Cowboys are now 2-3 and enter a bye week, probably the best thing that could happen to them at this point in the season. The team needs to regroup and try to find some answers to its problems. The offense has fizzled, and the defense is not good enough to dominate a game. Can Jason Garrett find any answers?